Herb set the plates on the table and, after pouring himself a cup of coffee, took a seat at the counter across from them.
“I hope this isn’t too personal but are you twins or something? It seems unusual to meet a brother and sister with such similar names.” Cassandra sighed and Casey grinned.
“We are definitely not twins.” Cassandra clarified. “And we’re actually only half-siblings. Our father wasn’t very-” She looked at Casey.
“Imaginative,” he finished. “Except when it came to how many wives he thought someone was allowed to have.”
Herb shook his head, as if to shake some sense loose. “I don’t understand, how many wives did he have?”
“Only two that we know of, but the trouble is, he had them at the same time. Which became apparent quite quickly when he died, and there was a bit of a Brady bunch mashup at the reading of the will. Being that he married Cassie’s mom a few months before mine rendered her the legitimate heir to everything. My mom was left with nothing. So Leslie, that’s Cassie’s mom, invited us to come and live with them. We were still more or less babies, so we’ve grown up as though we were full blood siblings. Leslie said there was no reason why we shouldn’t make the best of an awkward situation.”
“Well that’s awfully progressive of your mother, Cassandra. A lot of people might have been really angry about something like that.”
“Oh, she was. He’s probably lucky he was dead because I’m pretty sure she would have killed him if she’d found out he was not just cheating in his heart but on paper too. I don’t really remember him. I think it worked out pretty well. Though there are times I think I would have rather had a sister.” She winked at Casey, who stuck out his tongue and scootched across the bench seat.
“Lucky you found Tommy then. Though I think sometimes she’s a better brother than I am too. At least she could defend your womanly honour if it came to that. I’ve never been in a fight, but I’m fairly certain I’d lose. I don’t have the fastest reaction time.”
“Maybe it’s all the weed. Or perhaps the nitrous, the hash, the mushrooms, and whatever else you packed along.”
“You know about that?”
“I do now. Though now the mystery of why you packed balloons is solved.”
“Fuuuuuuuuuu-” He whirled to the door. “Well, I’m just going to step out for some..ahem..air.” Cassandra rolled her eyes with a smile. “Thanks for dinner, Herb, it was spectacular. You make a damn fine pie as well.”
“Oh, you can thank Gladys at the Townswomen’s Craft League. She loves to bake but lives alone since she lost her husband a couple of years ago. I asked if she wouldn’t mind making me the occasional pie. She brings me 2 every day. I’ve got at a dozen or more in the freezer if you want a whole one.”
“I might take you up on that later. It’s entirely probable I’ll be hungry again.” With a smile he pulled open the door, closing it gently behind him. His footsteps receded down the wooden steps and Herb turned to Cassie, who toyed with the mostly uneaten pie on her plate.
“You don’t like it? I have other flavours. Dozens.” She laughed at that, then sobered.
“Oh the pie is delicious. I’m just really full and wishing, a little bit, that my brother was less inclined to tell the whole world about what a terrible man our dad was.”
“I wouldn’t worry too much about that. When it comes to terrible fathers, there are way worse than yours out there. I think there is a good possibility I’d be in the running for that prize, though my father is dead too. I know I’m not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but he was a right bastard.”
“Something we have in common, it seems. I’m sorry to hear it. Did you grow up around here?”
“About as far from it as you can imagine. How long have you kids been travelling? Just today? Or is this the leg of a longer trip?”
“Nice deflection. What brought you out here? Or have you always dreamed of having a barbecue restaurant with a weird name in the middle of not much?”
“What brings you out here? You’re not a ghost hunter, like your brother and his friend. You’re not on a romantic getaway, like your couple friends. What made you decide to come along?”
Cassandra shot him a look.
“You’ll think I’m crazy.”
“I’m sure I’ve heard crazier. Try me.”
“I had this..feeling when Casey told me about the trip. Like something was going to go horribly wrong. I tried to talk him out of it. Tommy walked in while we were arguing and when she heard, she thought it was a great idea as she’d recently hooked up with Kirk and road trips are a brilliant way to see how people act in close quarters and stressful situations. Tommy can be a lot, but she has a really good heart under that massive chest. Guys treat her like she’s just a body and it’s hurtful. Kirk seems to be a pretty good guy who likes her for her self, and she wanted to know if he is what he seems before she becomes invested and ends up hurt again. And since she was determined to come, and Casey wouldn’t be swayed, I thought it’s better to be here than home worrying.”
“A feeling, hey? What sort of feeling?”
“Oh nothing, it’s silly.”
“I don’t think it is. What sort of feeling?”
“A sense that something is going to go wrong. It’s happened a few times where I would see what could happen and then it does. No one has ever died, but there have been a few accidents. Most people don’t believe me and then when it comes true, they look at me like I’m a freak. I had a hard enough time in high school as it was, being that my dad was a bigamist, people thought my and Casey’s moms were lesbians, my brother is a grade A stoner who somehow gets straight A’s so I’m encouraged to be more like him, my best friend is a literal amazon with a brain as fit as her body, and I’m just a mediocre reincarnation of Carrie White or something.”
“She had telekinesis. And she’s also a fictional character in a story. That said, I think you’re a good friend and sister to come along on a trip you’re not excited about to protect the people you care for. I’m not excited to see you out here looking to dig up things that have been long buried.”
“What’s the story? What’s out here that has Nathan and my brother so interested?”
“It’s not a nice story, what happened out on the lake, but it seems we have a few minutes until your friends come back. Hopefully if I share it, you’ll understand that getting a couple of rooms at Jeff’s place and heading home tomorrow might be the best idea. I’m going to need another cup of coffee for this.” He stood up to refill his mug.
Nathan stood before the bathroom mirror, taking deep breaths. His face was pale under the florescent lights, but it would have been pale anywhere. His palms were clammy and he couldn’t seem to slow his heartbeat. It felt as though it would punch through his chest like that alien in that movie. After tonight people would probably refer to him as heartless anyhow.
He had to play his cards just right. There was no way he could take any of them in a fair fight, except maybe Casey. The element of surprise was his only shot.
He ran the tap and splashed more cold water on his face, letting it drip down into the sink. He was running out of time to get everyone out to the site, thanks to that meddling cook. Nathan would have to get things going on his own, but maybe that was for the best. It would provide proof that he belonged in the same league as the creature he’d been reading about. He had to start somewhere.
He would have preferred to practice on strangers, but sacrifices must be made.